New study suggests coffee can increase the risk of miscarriage

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There are certain luxuries in life that, for obvious reasons, pregnant women are made to go nine months without. Take high-waisted jeans, for example. Cucumber and salmon sushi rolls, triple cream brie and pinot gris (the list goes on and on… and on.)

But according to new research, we might not even be able to indulge in a quarter-strength latte without potentially harming the health of bub.

Scientists out of Iceland’s Reykjavik University analysed data from 48 separate studies that looked at the impact of caffeine during gestation. From this, they concluded that there is no safe level of consumption, as it increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, lower birth weight, childhood acute leukemia and giving birth to a baby who was overweight or obese.

Source: Getty

“There is substantial cumulative evidence of an association between maternal caffeine consumption and diverse negative pregnancy outcomes,” the paper’s author and psychology professor Jack E. James wrote.

This goes against the current Australian guidelines, which recommend expectant mums reduce their intake to less than 200mg of caffeine daily (which, btw, is around one to two instant coffees or two to three cups of tea.)

In addition, many experts have dismissed James’ research as it’s inconsistent with accepted evidence.

“There are so many dos and don’ts associated with pregnancy and the last thing we need is to cause unnecessary anxiety,” University of Adelaide pharmacist Dr Luke Grzeskowiak told the BBC.

“At the end of the day, women should be reassured that caffeine can be consumed in moderation during pregnancy.”

Professor Andrew Shennon from Kings College London conccured, saying that the analysis was flawed as it didn’t exclude other risk factors (e.g. smoking.) “Like many substances found in a normal diet, harms in pregnancy can be found with high doses,” he said. “However the observational nature of this data with its inherent bias does not indicate with any certainty that low doses of caffeine are harmful, and the current advice to avoid high doses of caffeine are unlikely to change.”

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Comments 28

  1. Oh yes, caffeine is a drug and pumps up[ adrenals over and over all day long. Not good for pregnancy to be always in fight and flight mode, so body can reject anything extra that is a burden to the survival of the body.

  2. I’ve never been a drinker of coffee – love the smell but don’t like the way it made me feel afterwards. So I’ve tended to avoid it usually – having a tea instead. I do love the flavour of it in a coffee cake though!

  3. It has been ‘properly analysed’ – it’s just the study only really looked at caffeine consumption, rather than taking other factors into account perhaps. The pressure is on to publish publish publish in scientific circles, and with universities having little cash with COVID due to international students drying up, tenured professors are under pressure to bring their institutions into the spotlight. It’s not scaremongering and shaming – its the world of academia, unfortunately. The end result is not ideal, but they aren’t saying women are in any way bad for having caffeine, just this study reckons it increases undesirable outcomes. As the other experts in the article point out- there are many factors at play, and caffeine probably isn’t a single factor. But hey, perhaps lets just not take the risk? I know my toddler doesn’t sleep still and I’d be relying on coffee to get through a pregnancy, but at the end of the day, if you can’t go without the coffee, how much do you want the baby? :/

  4. Its so interesting to me that each time I became pregnant I would stop drinking coffee. I just felt that if caffeine had withdrawal symptoms then odds on it wasnt good for my growing baby. Turns out that listening to my gut paid off.

  5. “the paper’s author and psychology professor”… PSYCHOLOGY professor who goes on to say you doom your baby to a scary list of health consequences if you drink coffee. I feel for any woman having babies in the Google age as there is an abundance of conflicting information and not always from credible sources. It is such a daunting task to grow a new human, analysing every choice you make and blaming yourself for everything that MIGHT go wrong. The best source of pregnancy info is your doctor or midwife. Everything else just take with a grain of salt and relax! When in doubt, ask your doctor – that’s why you pay them the big bucks!

  6. Coffee seems to get a bad wrap most of the time. Perhaps they should study Italians. They seem to drink heaps of coffee. I wouldn’t say that their population is dropping, I think this story is BS.

  7. These papers aren’t normally published without peer review. This is a meta-analysis, it’s at the top of the hierarchy of evidence. This article analyses the findings of 42 published works that were also probably peer reviewed prior to publication. It’s not scare mongering or shaming. If you’re someone like me who drank 8 cups of day prior to conception you cut back or switch to decaffeinated if you care. Many women who drink excessive coffee will have trouble conceiving at all. Women want to know how to do the best by their baby and scientists are sharing that information. There’s no need to hate on academia for releasing this information. The amount of times I’ve heard pregnant women say “I didn’t know I should’t….” during pregnancy never ceases to alarm me. Not once during my pregnancy did I have medical professionals warn me of the dangers of anything beyond consuming alcohol or taking drugs. I’ve always kept myself informed of everything but I have the skills to find information and self-educate, many women don’t possess these skills. My own pregnancy alerted me to how uninformed many women are.

  8. I agree that it’s odd that this paper was written by a psychology professor. However scientific journals are not Google. This is a meta-analysis, the highest level of evidence on the hierarchy. Your doctor is towards the bottom of the evidence hierarchy, along with a midwife and google. The information in this paper has come from the assessment of 42 published studies. I agree that pregnancy is a time to relax, take the usual precautions and don’t panic about every little thing that can go wrong. However your doctor an midwife don’t actually have the time to keep up with all of the research and they are not the best source of information. They know the basics and it takes time for this kind of research to trickle down.

  9. No woman would ever choose coffee over their baby.
    I’m just saying this study that didn’t eliminate other factors is not helpful for expectant mums who will now be paranoid about everything that contains caffeine.
    But obviously I don’t know about the world of academia and I did not know about the pressures of publishing.
    I just get annoyed reading about the “latest study”, and it’s almost always alarmist.

  10. I’m not hating on academia at all, it’s just that this study didn’t exclude other risk factors (e.g. smoking.) Other risk factors that are known to be high risk, so how much can they conclude caffeine is risky?
    Of course I cut coffee completely when I was pregnant because of course I would do anything for my child, but there’s caffeine in so many other foods, it’s hard to cut it completely, and saying any caffeine causes miscarriage and birth defects will alarm people, if they haven’t even done a complete study eliminating all other factors.
    I think the medical professionals are quite good at informing pregnant women what is harmful and what is not, I don’t know any pregnant women who was unsure, but maybe I just don’t know that many. But in any case I’m just saying this study is not that helpful.

  11. It sounds like what you expect is a clinical trial and this would be highly unethical. Unless you have read the results of every single report used in this paper then you don’t actually know if other factors were eliminated. This is not a single study, it covers the findings of over 40 studies!

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